Jurors on Saturday found a white Florida man guilty of three counts of attempted murder and one other charge for the fatal shooting of a black teenager over loud music, but a mistrial was declared on the most-serious charge against the defendant — first-degree murder.
After deliberating for more than 30 hours over four days, the jury convicted Michael Dunn, 47, of three counts of attempted murder in the second degree and one count of firing a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle, but deadlocked on the first-degree murder charge, prompting the judge in the case to declare a mistrial on that charge.
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey indicated she would seek a retrial on that count.
Sentencing on the other charges was set for March 24. Dunn still faces at least 60 years in prison on the lesser counts. He could face a sentence of life in prison if he was convicted on the first-degree murder charge on retrial.
Dunn argued he was acting in self-defense when he shot at an SUV 10 times while parked next to four teens at a Jacksonville, Fla., gas station in November 2012 after an argument about loud rap music emanating from the vehicle. The shots killed Jordan Davis, 17, of Marietta, Ga.
Dunn showed no emotion as the verdicts were read. Davis' parents left the courtroom in tears.
But Dunn’s attorney, Cory Strolla, said later that his client was stunned by the results.
“He basically said, ‘How is this happening?’“ he said. “It has not settled in.”
“It’s been a long, long road and we're so very happy to have just a little bit of closure,'' Davis' mother, Lucy McBath, told reporters later.
"It's sad for Mr. Dunn that he will live the rest of his life in that sense of torment. I will pray for him. I will ask my family to pray for him. But we are so grateful for the charges that have been brought against him, we are so grateful for the truth, we are so grateful that the jurors were able to understand the common sense of it all.''
On Dunn's potentially lengthy sentence, Davis' father, Ron Davis, said: "He's going to learn that he must be remorseful for the killing of my son, that it was not just another day at the office."
The case has been compared to that of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted of murder in the shooting death of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin in Florida. Like the Zimmerman trial, the case has drawn international attention due to racial overtones and its connection to gun and self-defense laws.
Bob Mack / The Florida Times-Union via AP, file
Small memorials to Jordan Davis are planted outside the courthouse in Jacksonville, Fla., on Tuesday. The signs were quickly removed.
Judge Russell Healey sent the jurors back to continue deliberations earlier Saturday when they indicated a deadlock on the murder charge, saying he wanted them to return to the jury room and express the weakness of each of their arguments.
The sequestered jury of eight whites, two blacks, one Asian and one Hispanic also had asked the judge on if they could rule whether self-defense was applicable to any of the five counts individually.
Healey answered that “self-defense or justifiable use of deadly force applies separately for each count."
“Each count has to, by law, be considered separately,” Healey said, adding that he realized, “It’s not easy to compartmentalize these things.”
NBC legal expert and former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey said the jury’s question showed they were divided about whether Dunn’s claim of self-defense justifies his shots at the other three teens. Some jurors might feel Dunn assumed Davis presented danger, but the other three individuals in the car did not, Coffey added.
Bob Mack / AP
Judge Russell Healey explains his answers to three related jury questions to defense attorney Cory Strolla, center, and defendant Michael Dunn, right, before bringing the jury into the courtroom on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.
Dunn, a software engineer who has a concealed weapons permit and no prior convictions, was waiting in his car while his fiancée was buying snacks inside the gas station convenience store when he got into a verbal fight with Davis and his friends over the volume of their music.
While testifying in his own defense on Tuesday, Dunn said that he started shooting because he felt threatened when he thought he saw the barrel of a gun emerge from the back window as Davis allegedly started getting out of the Dodge Durango.
Police said they didn’t find a weapon in the SUV the teens were in, and prosecutors said Davis — who had no police record — never exhibited a physical threat. Prosecutors also said forensic evidence proved that Davis never left the SUV.
Still, defense lawyer Cory Strolla argued Wednesday that Dunn “had every reason to stand his ground," using language pointing to a controversial self-defense law allowing people to use deadly force in lieu of retreating if they feel endangered by another person.
But Assistant State Attorney Erin Wolfson said, “This defendant does not get to claim self-defense."
“This defendant may have forever silenced Jordan Davis, but he cannot silence the truth," Wolfson added.
Davis’ 19th birthday would have been Sunday.
NBC News’ Elizabeth Chuck and Reuters contributed to this report.
First published February 15 2014, 10:50 AM